Yet, this energy won’t provide local (Laos) industry with cheap energy, on the contrary, 90 percent of it will be sold to the neighbouring countries of Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Watts explains that this move is part of a broader plan by the Laos Government to use more of its natural resources to generate finance. He continues:
According to Viravong, 20% of Laos’ GDP will come from hydropower and mining by 2020, up from about 4% today.”
Yet, the complexities of growth, development and sustainability begin to reveal themselves with more information about the Mekong and the countries on its banks. For example, this dam is one of eleven proposed for the lower part of the Mekong. And, these aren’t the first dams for the river either: China has already heavily dammed the upsteam section.
It isn’t just conservation groups who are concerned with this mass damming program. Organisations like Oxfam, Manna Gum, and coalition group Save the Mekong are united with a shared concern for the impact that these dams will have on local residents, such as the numerous fishing communities whose livelihoods depend on the fish that traverse the waters.
But there is without a doubt an environmental aspect to this issue as well. Fish are going to be affected. Sedimentation is a concern.
Four of the world’s 10 biggest freshwater fish migrate up the Mekong to spawn. Among them is the Mekong giant catfish, which is the size of a bull shark, and the Mekong stingray, which can weigh up to 600kg.”
When asked about the environmental impact, Viravong responded: “If we do it ourselves, only cheap energy from hydropower will do.”
What does it mean for Australians to help our neighbours? What if our Government contributed to subsidising sustainable energy for developing countries like Laos? Do we have a responsibility for the fishing communities, and for the fish of the Mekong?
For more information check out “Preserving Plenty” a report by Oxfam/Manna Gum.
For a photo of the biggest river fish I’ve ever seen, go here.